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Unforgettable Andaman Safari

THAILAND | Thursday, 12 April 2007 | Views [1113] | Comments [2]

Scuba Cat

Scuba Cat

Despite having a very uncertain future, it is not all doom and gloom for Koh Phi Phi. Phi Phi Don is the main island, which has the vast majority of the issues. Phi Phi Lei to the south is basically uninhabited, as it is a national park and gathering site for swiftlet nests to make bird nest soup (convienently available in a "refreshing beverage" at your local dairy here). I'm not sure about Lonely Planet's flowery quote that it's beauty will move you to tears, but it certainly is an impressive sight. Vertical cliffs of limestone soaring out of the azure sea makes Phi Phi Lei remaniscent of a mini Fiordland. The beach on the island used to film The Beach isn't up to much at low tide, but you'll see more types of fish in an hour snorkelling around the island than you will in a week at Koh Tao.

Despite the islands of Bida Nok and Bida Nai being the best 'local' dive sites, we headed further afield towards Phuket to dive the King Cruiser, an 85m roll-on-roll-off car ferry which sank a decade ago. A very persistent current and below average viz made this a challenging dive, and widescale collapse of its superstructure after the Tsunami limited penetration. Nearby Shark Point was great though with heaps of fish, abundant soft and hard coral, virtually no current and heaps better viz. Our third dive of the day at Palong Bay on the west coast of Phi Phi Lei was great too with black tip reef sharks, a very friendly turtle and more Nemo's than you would believe.

Still we hadn't come across those perfectly clear water conditions where you can seemingly see forever...that was until we started our four day liveaboard through the Similan and Surin National Parks. Our first days diving at the Similans was picture postcard, virtually limitless viz, huge sea fans, oodles of fish, brightly coloured nudibranchs, amazing soft and hard coral, morays, black and white tip reef sharks, swim throughs and a fleeting glimpse of the holy grail for me, a Manta Ray. In between dives we ate like kings and lounged on the beautiful white sand beaches... bliss

The next day we headed north to Koh Bon and Ko Tachai. Koh Bon is Manta central, but the Manta's evidently like a sleep in, so we din't see any on our first dive. Not that an absence of Manta's made for a boring dive as there was a beautiful wall of soft coral with crayfish, stonefish, morays, frogfish, scorpion and lion fish and even a few tasty Tuna paid us a visit. Dive two will be forever ingrained in my mind though as, not once, but twelve times Manta Rays swooped past us. Even coming right up to Cat and I as if to give as a huge hug, before banking away at the last minute. To be in close proximity to so many huge fish (these things are over 5m wide and tip the scales at over 2 tonnes) was really special. Although they were good dives, the remaining two that day just paled in comparison despite the massive school of Neon Fusiliers that blocked out the sun as they passed overhead (we're talking 100,000s of fish here), schools of giant and chevron barracuda, cuttlefish and even some mating octopi.

Richelieu Rock was our target on day three and is reknown for Whale Sharks. Despite being in the area recently, we lucked out on all four attempts at spotting them, but had fun finding morays, frogfish, seahorses, harlequin shrimps, baracuda and all manner of other fish that were hanging about. Big thermoclines caused by nutrient rich cold water welling up from the depths dropped the temperature to a "chilly" 24 degrees now and again.

Our last day we tried our luck back at Koh Bon and Koh Tachai. Unfortunately, every dive boat from Burma to Malaysia seemed to have converged on these two sites, and the one Manta at Koh Bon beat a hasty retreat from the perpetual curtain of bubbles, and annoying Asian divers incessantly tapping their tanks to alert others of the poor bewildered Manta.

All in all, the Andaman Sea was great for it's diversity of dive sites and amount of cool stuff to see. Much better value for money than Koh Tao for fundiving. We can't wait to get wet with Manta's again though...

Tags: Adventures

Comments

1

I've often wondered whether it's worth diving ko Tao, but I too am in search of the endless viz. and won't waste my time there - thanks for the tip about the Similan National parks.

  crustyadventures Apr 13, 2007 2:04 PM

2

We're about to do our confined dive, then the open water dives over the next couple of days. The mantas sound really cool - our dive instructor called them one of the holy grails of diving!!

We were soaked yesterday during Songkran but that's kind of the idea...

  Sean and Adrienne Apr 14, 2007 2:11 PM

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